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SIR THOMAS BROWN,
An eminent physician and writer, son of Mr. Thomas Brown, merchant, of London, descended of an ancient and respectable family in Cheshire, was born in 1605, in Cheapside, London. He was educated first at Winchester College, and afterwards, 1623, entered gentleman commoner of Broad-gate-Hall, since Pembroke College, Oxford, as student of medicine. Having taken his degrees in arts, he practiced physic for some time in Oxfordshire. But his mother marrying sir Thomas Dutton, an official man under the government of Ireland, he accompanied her and his step-father to that island, where he visited all the fortresses of the kingdom. This journey inducing an inclination to travel, he made the tour of France and Italy; and having remained for some time at Montpelier, and at Padua, he came back to
Holland, where, at Leyden, he took the degree of doctor of physic:
Returning to England about 1634, he settled, two years after, at Norwich; and the year following, 1637, was incorporated doctor of physic at Oxford. On account of his great reputation as a physician, he was subsequently made honorary fellow of the royal college of physicians in London. He was knighted in 1671, by Charles the Second, in his progress through Norwich, with singular marks of consideration; and died in 1699.
1. The first of his productions was the Relić. gio Médici, or, The Religion of a Physician, written in 1635. This piece, having beeri communicated to various persons, became much corrupted by transcription, and in this state was surreptitiously printed, which induced the author to publish a correct copy of it from the original. It is divided into two parts; the first containing his confession of faith, all his curious religious opinions and feelings; the second a confession of his charity, i. e. all his human feelings.
I shall select a specimen or two from each.
On the Wisdom of God.
His (God's] actions are not begot with deliberation, his wisdom naturally knows what is best ; his intellect stands ready fraught with the superlative and purest ideas of goodness ; consultation and election, which are two motions in us, make but one in him, his actions springing from his power, at the first touch of his will. These are contemplations metaphysical ; my humble speculations have another me. thod, and are content to trace and discover those expressions he hath left in his creatures, and the obvious effects of nature; there is no danger to profound these mysteries, no sanctum sanctorum” in philo+ sophy. The world was made to be inhabited by beasts, but studied and contemplated by man: it is the debt of our reason we owe unto God, and the homage we pay for not being beasts; without this, the world is still as though it had not been, or as it was before the sixth day, when as yet there was not a creature that could conceive, or say there was a world. The wisdom of God receives small honour from those vulgar heads that rudely stare about, and with a gross rusticity admire his works. Those highly magnify him, whose judicious enquiry into his acts, and deliberate research into his creatures, return the duty of a devout and learned admira tion.
The second part contains various passages, which elucidate the author's very curious, yet estimable character; and on that account will probably be the most generally interesting.
I thank God, amongst those millions of vices I do inherit and hold from Adam, I have escaped one, and that a mortal enemy to charity, the first and father sin, not only of man, but of the devil-pride ; a vice, whose name is comprehended in a monosyllable, but in its nature not circumscribed by a world. I have escaped it in a condition that can hardly avoid it. Those petty acquisitions and rem puted perfections that advance and elevate the conceits of other men, add no feathers unto mine. I have seen a grammarian tour and plume himself over a single line in Horace, and shew more pride in the construction of one ode, than the author in the composure of the whole book. For my own part, besides the jargon and patois of several provinces, I understand no less than six languages; yet I protest I have no higher conceit of myself than had our fathers before the confusion of Babel, when there was but one language in the world, and none to boast himself either linguist or critic. I have not only seen several countries, beheld the nature of their climes, the chorography of their provinces, topography of their
cities, but understood their several laws, customs, and policies; yet cannot all this persuade the dulness of my spirit unto such an opinion of myself as I behold in nimbler and conceited heads, that never looked a degree beyond their nests. I know the names, and somewhat more, of all the constellations in my
horizon, yet I have seen a prating mariner that could only name the pointers and the rðrth star, outtalk me, and conceit himself a whole sphere above.
I know most of the plants of my country, and of those about me'; yet methinks I do not know so many as when I did but know a hundred, and had scarcely ever simpled further than Cheapside: for indeed, heads of capacity, and such as are not full with a handful, or easy measure of knowledge, think they know nothing till they know all; which being impossible, they fall upon the opinion of Socrates, and only know they know not any thing.
His opinion of the commerce between the sexes, for its oddity, is worth extracting.
I was never yet once, and commend their resolutions, who never marry twice. Not that I disallow of second marriage; as neither in all cases of polysamy, which considering some times, and the unequal number of both sexes, may be also necessary.